Are you Indigenous Indian?

“Are you part indigenous Indian?”  Asked a man waiting in line at the Post Office.  A secret smile crept onto my face.  I really wished I was and told him that.  He said he was part and commented on my looks.   No one has ever asked me that before, though I did have one boyfriend years ago, who commented on my feet and how they looked like I had walked many lands and that meant to him that I was very wise.  I decided to just let that be true… for him.

I wondered what the man at the Post Office saw that made him ask. I searched my history and memories like they were typed pages holding secrets, hidden between words.  When I was little I was a blue-eyed blonde with Russian ancestors. But I always thought my grandmother, who was born in Russia, looked like an indigenous Indian and wanted to know the story of her parents and childhood.  I wondered how her looks came about, the tall thin woman she was, with high cheekbones, and sunken cheeks.

That small comment, that day, made me feel so special.  The man spoke to my desire to be with or in as many cultures as there are people, a desire to be part of a tribe, well, many tribes.

Images flutter in front of me and I see my grandmother next to an ancient wise Indian, one whose feet have walked the earth, touched the actual soil. I see the deep sun-dried lines that suggest, wisdom and natural beauty which is simply, beautiful, worn and filled with stories.

Good pick up line, I thought.  It turned me inward, into things deeper in me than I can understand. It made me aware of a ball of light deep inside that glows when I decide to look that way.  It may glow all the time, even when I am not looking.

And when those words enter my thoughts I also hear, “There she goes…off the deep end… again. She is sure that is what certain friends and family are saying about her now, “Ball of light, glowing deep inside…whaaat!”  That says too many years in California, for sure!

So, of course, I am headed back to California, with plans to meet old camping friends, and we will camp our way back, through indigenous lands, where I am pretty certain, no one will ask if I am indigenous Indian.  And I will be back in the land where spoken words of balls glowing deep inside are more commonplace, as well as shamans, healers, and therapists.

Dad's Glass

Floating in A Dinghy in the Ocean…for Now

Photo credit: The Hidden Art of Moonsweeping   Ala Pixar

“You are in a dinghy in the ocean.  You will beach and you will be fine, just not yet.  ElsaElsa, Astrologer

I am that kind of a person who listens to things like this because they help explain what I feel, what I can’t control or don’t want to control. Elsa spoke to a deep part of me that knows, and what I know is that I don’t want to land, not yet. She tells me, in an attempt to comfort me, that landing will occur sometime in early 2019 to Spring of 2019 when I will beach my dinghy. I am hoping It won’t be longer unless when I get to the Spring of 2019 it feels right to wait, again, for landing.

I reached a pivot point where doing something different, though scary and unsettling, out weighted remaining as I had been for so many years, afraid. Some freedom has been unleashed in me that yearns for the next adventure. No naysayers to hold me back with all the fears and considerations rebounding in my mind, “Watch out!”  “You might…”  “What if…”  

The Traveler in me, always thought travel was the luxury of good fortune when I deeply Knew it was my birthright. And now, I can’t go back into the attic, the basement, my room, or hunker down.  This Journeywoman wants to stay out, like an unbound child, reaching for every wish and dream and wants to discover more about all the possibilities of living a life unconfined by “supposed to’s“, shoulds and the restrictions brought on by “ought to’s“.

This journey is not for everyone. It is hardly for anyone, and it is not one I recommend as a choice.  It is a part of a path that is painful, seemingly unending, and at times, very boring. It began many years ago and then, I fell and tumbled further, deeply onto the path 10 years ago, after my divorce.  The road I landed on was laden with much solitude, more aloneness than what gave me comfort and the discovery of the wonders of silence. My soul companion, Henry, my chocolate labrador, was necessary to my bravery, and he did his work of getting me out when I didn’t want to be out and getting me talking to people I might have otherwise ignored.

 

 

The past many years was a life of renting rooms to wonderful strangers who arrived at my door from all over the world, giving me purpose and a reason to get up, make the bed and keep the house clean.  I could focus on being of service to others.

This was a period of too many years of a most disquieting depression. A depression that lurked around the corners of my mind for most of my life with a few respites such as attending Dell Arte School of Commedia, having my kids, and raising them, and travels abroad and elsewhere. The darkness fully dropped its shroud on me and enveloped my mind upon my divorce in 2008.

So, the last 10 years was a time of surrendering to a way I had fended off for a very long time.  It was an uncomfortable and very dark awkward time of clarifying what I know to be true for me.  It was not a time of answers or solutions, it simply was a time of getting by with putting one foot in front of the other, slogging through, showing up as best I could.  And from what I hear, most people had no idea I felt as I did.  It was not that I tried to disguise what was happening, rather, it was a very solitary experience that did not show up when I was with others.  I sought the help of therapists who did not know what to do with this.  How do you treat a symptom that only rears its horns when one is alone?  I sought the help of antidepressants and nutritionists and those gave me a few moments of feeling less than depressed, but moments that felt as if I was teetering on a cliff and could fall into the vat of depression at any moment. I studied about the heart’s desires, forgiveness and began to meditate and study secular Buddhism and that has given me better places to go in my thoughts. It gave me the work of training my mind when headed down the wrong road.

But really, the remedy for me seemed to consist of taking the seemingly very big risk of stepping out of my life as I knew it: Leaving the life I had outgrown; realizing I was wearing a skin that no longer fit and perhaps never did, and slipping out of it even though fear made me want to stay in it, even though anxiety of how all of this would go, made me yearn for the comfort of the old skin, though it was no longer offering comfort.

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Life is different now. I have broken away, literally, and the depression has lifted. I feel released from the prison of my dark mind, my lethargy and the weighty fog that enveloped my thoughts and turned Every Thing dull.

My trip to Chicago in April 2017 started me off.  It woke me up to people and things in the world that I always knew was there, but never really experienced.  As a  therapist, I always said and taught, that a geographic change won’t really change you, but it did.  I let go of things I had been holding on to; my past, a stress, a pushing against, the treading water that exhausted me.  Going back to Chicago, where I grew up, let me live with my memories, see places of familiarity, gather back strength from my roots, refresh old images that rested in my mind and look at them again, and deeply re-examine the childhood I had spent there.

The muscles of my mind hold such a memory.  My great aunt lived on Laurel, a block from the stunning Baha’i Temple in Wilmette.  As a child, my parents would drop me off on Linden Avenue so I could walk the secret path, alone and meet them at my aunt’s house.

This time around, visiting the temple, was not about traveling a secret path to my aunt’s house but meditating at the very temple whose image is embroidered in my mind. Meditating in this place of such craftsmanship,  felt like a privilege.  Looking back, practicing here, seemed to gather all of my past together, under it’s great, intricate dome,  The great atmosphere of light, and shadow allowed wounds to be released and fly through the cement lacework, out to the sky. Though as a child, it was just something to ogle, this time it was a familiar soft, silent place to sit and feel.

Though I did not go to meditate with the idea of healing wounds, it now seems to be what happened.

 

Now, without the darkness of depression hanging over me, I have a deep sense inside me that I am not landing anywhere yet and when I stretch my thoughts out into the future, as if on tendrils, it feels scary and words surface like, “you should know…, if you don’t, you will miss this opportunity for… or you will miss that… ” You will never own a home again, you will never find a place as good as the one before, you will never do this, or that or… ” So many things that won’t happen if I don’t figure this out.  But I am focused on all the things that could happen if I don’t pretend to know and allow possibilities to unfold.

When I just stay where I am, present, not reaching into my future or back to my past, I am okay, things work and life is more full.  It isn’t perfect; places I stay aren’t the aesthetic that is my cup of tea, nor my preference but what does all that matter? What I am finding matters are the relationships with the people I meet, the amazing generosity of spirit on the road and the stories people share with me, as well as the stories they tell just in their ways of doing things, their actions, their ways of relating to others.

I find that in choosing this road, magic has a place. I can have a wish to camp my way back from Chicago to California but feel uncomfortable about doing it alone. Then about two months before I am to leave I get a text from an old friend and camping pal asking what I’m up to. We had not seen each other for some 45 years when we were on our last camping trip from Chicago to Alaska. I called her and she and her husband were planning a camping trip from their home in central Illinois to Portland, Oregon. So I asked to tag along. Some people say I manifested that. I believe I was just aware of a wish, open to possibilities, determined to not allow fear to guide me, and there was the opportunity I could say yes to.

A note about moon sweepers photo:  If I am out in a dingy, I may as well sweep the moon. As a dear friend often said, “What else is there to do?”

Family, Friends, Donald Evans and Things Part 1

Travels within the phases of life. I have no idea when Part 2 or 3 or anymore will arrive but it just seems like this is a Part 1. I find myself in a mix of darting thoughts about family, friends, possessions, my current role with my kids and others, my personality and everyone else’s.

6/18/17

The ritual of graduation was the subject of a short debate, to walk or not to walk. Nellie Evans didn’t make a lot of request of her kids to do things they weren’t keen on, but this ritual felt very important as there were so few in their lives. She felt it important for her youngest to claim her spot as a scholar as she had worked hard at being a student and it was important to Nellie for her youngest to be honored just as her eldest had been. The ceremony of honoring all the work done and an acknowledgment of a path that will curve and change, wind back and go forward was of consequence and not likely to be forgotten. Nellie felt it important to hold the significance of this ritual even when her daughter wasn’t so sure it was that “big of a deal” and even with the complaining about the dreaded and mandatory suffering of a 3.5 hour long ceremony.

The graduating daughter decided to walk, pleasing her father, Nellie and maybe herself. With this graduation came a celebratory backyard BBQ with cousins, and friends.  They were people known to Nellie and unknown.  Some socialized in ways that she wouldn’t and others she felt quite comfortable with.  All the while, having a propensity for seriousness, her mind kept being drawn to the nagging question of what really mattered?

Nellie’s perspective had shifted and changed about how she held people, places, and things. People who she held very close, she now felt the relief of distance from, others remained very close and she found great fulfillment in the connection. Things that had felt so very very important to her really didn’t matter now and that was strange. But not so strange that she would want to do anything about it other than watch it.

What really mattered? The move from the West Coast to the Midwest gave her pause to think about all the things that had transpired since April when she started the road trip East.  She thought about the relationships that were transforming without knowing how they would look, the artwork which she sorted through that was inherited and valuable, some she stored, some she sold.  There was the furniture which passed from one generation to the next and now outfitted her two daughter’s homes as well as a few friends’.  The jewelry was held safely in a family jewelry box waiting to be chosen by the daughters. And placed around the jewelry box for padding and protection were the wonderful sofa pillows that were made by Nellie’s mother.

Life as she had known it was now memories and the trip to the Midwest seemed something of a karmic sorting.  At least that was how she could make sense of it.  It brought to mind Harry Potter’s sorting hat and she wished she could just don it and know what group she belonged with whenever she doubted or feared.

The letting go of so much of this became Nellie’s job along with trying to figure out what matters? Who matters?  Which memories would get lost in the letting go, which would remain, how close would those memories be held by the upcoming generation and how close to the truth would they come and did that matter? What relationships would hold and what would drift away?

Of the many things that had changed, was Nellie’s need for an aesthetically pleasing environment. She had been a person who couldn’t be too long in surroundings that didn’t suit her aesthetic or around people very different from herself.  She liked things and relationships to be copacetic, and beautiful to be around. She had been known to talk about things in her surroundings that didn’t look right and how those things made her mind work too hard or hurt her eyes.  Her home had been of great pride, making it warm, inviting, and easy on the eyes.  She grew up with that and felt it the quality of being a good enough mother to help her kids carry it forward into their homes wishing them a comfortable life.

She currently resided in a wonderfully roomy room in a house and though the aesthetic was not what she might have picked, it had grown on Nellie.  It gave her comfort in that she did not have to start accumulating things to decorate her living space by purchasing again all the things she had just let go of. The dark maroon of the 4 walls at first looked just dark, but now she saw it as Buddhist maroon and took comfort in that. The color fed her spiritual need for a partial monastic life.  She found she was opening to things and people she would have judged and not come very close to in her past, though those who knew her would say she was always a very open person.  This move had shown her how much more open she could be.

“Give up your homeland— this is the practice of Bodhisattvas.” This is because the moment you leave the circumstances you’ve grown accustomed to, you are in foreign territory, and it’s easier to realize how much narrow-mindedness you are carrying around, including all your opinions, judgments, habits, and so on. Get yourself out of your comfort zone. By Dawa Tarchin Phillips, the resident teacher of the Santa Barbara Bodhi Path Buddhist Center and the Director of Education for the Center for Mindfulness and Human Potential at UCSB.

All in all, she continued to ask if any of the aesthetics or “right” people to be around really mattered?  If it did, what part mattered? And, why? Sometimes she could see her life and what matters fitting so nicely in a room like the one she had stayed in at Spirit Rock Silent retreats.  The rooms were simple, some might say barren.  The 125 square foot room contained a sink, a few towels, a large window, a small place for clothes, a single bed, a small table with a lamp and a clock on it,  That was it and it seemed to Nellie that it was complete. Upon arriving for a retreat, she would position the small table by her bed, and make the bed so she could look out the window and see the greenery.  She went to the retreats for the silence and so she only got to know people and be in relationship to them in a very particular and peculiar way.  At the end of a 7 or 9 night retreat, and silence was broken, she was always wondering who of the 90 or so people she would want to know more about.  She paid careful attention to the instruction given at the end about how to break silence, who to speak to while being mindful, questions she could expect from friends outside the retreat, and how to drive home safely. Sometimes, the awkwardness of starting to talk just gave her more permission to be quiet.

Towards the end of a Fall retreat, the final silent meal, she broke into hysterics with a dining companion over a silly hat a participant had chosen to wear.  The hat had eyes that peered at her and a top knot of sorts, that ordinarily might have only made her smile. But these circumstances put the three of them in fits of gaiety which they attempted to make into silent laughter with little success. Finally, they left the dining hall to arrive outside and let blow the laughter barely contained inside each of them.  All the while she thought about the laughing Buddha, just to give herself permission to fully feel the hysterics bursting in her.

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Finding herself in a new phase of life, Nellie’s questions about importance got bigger and bigger.  All the things that had meant so much to her seemed to not be all that important. All the judgments of others was still somewhat there, but less so. She found herself quieter in her thoughts, quieter in her interactions, and she thought more accepting of what is, at least some of the time.

In a tongue in cheek way, she actually wondered if she was dying.  She would exclaim, shouting in her head, “Well of course I am! We all are dying, just some of us seem a bit closer by way of age than others.”  She wondered if she was psychic and in fact, her life was coming to an end.  Or maybe she was just in a new phase of letting go by way of looking at what really, truly matters?

She grew up with people who held onto everything and all of it seemed to matter a lot. Even as they approached the end of their lives and left lots for the upcoming generation, it all mattered. She felt a bit different from that. In fact, she was different from that but carried the collector DNA which she constantly fought.

She was very curious about how all of this would land, what her life would look like in 5 years.  What country would she find herself in? What language would she speak?  When would she arrive there? And who would she be in relationship with? She found herself thinking of Donald Evans, an incredibly creative artist who made up countries and postage stamps for the countries. She always wanted to travel to his countries, she always wanted to know him and hear how he thought.

 

 

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Over Coffee

Just as the Buddha recognized Mara, we need to recognize the Inner Critic not as the truth, but as a single voice among many. ~Jan Chozen Bays Roshi, co-abbot of Great Vow Zen Monastery in Clatskanie, Oregon.

“Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading.Take down a musical instrument.” ~Rumi

To those following me, a heads up that as of now, now that I have landed, sometimes I will be writing in the third person. So, here is a taste of that.

She loved the absurdity of suffering over her coffee.  It lightened the load of the suffering she did over her decisions.  Just as it was too difficult to get the really good cup o’ Joe she yearned for, it was just as difficult to figure out how to write about the hard times. The critic from the dark side could arrive some mornings just as she rolled out of sleep. It had a volume turned way too high and it took up the greatest airtime. It could consume her no matter what was ahead for that day.

She was learning to recognize the critic’s presence; tangle with it, face it, eyeball it up and down, and put on her Joan of Arc armor to sword fight it and take it down. It was tougher when it was the very first thought upon waking. She was determined to take it apart and disempower it and she knew she was making progress a bit each day.  Day by day she walked feeling a bit more bathed in goodness and confidence, not critiquing her decisions. Now she knew for sure that the sword fighting combined with the eyeballing was the exact formula to combat and disembowel the dark side.

She had been in Evanston 8+ weeks.  Sometimes it felt as if she had already been there FOREVER? Other times it felt like she just got there and sometimes, in the most blessed moments, it just didn’t matter. There were times that she forgot her reasons for moving, which caused her to feel very muddled, confounded and unsettled. She moved away from her kids, her home, and her friends on the West Coast, so remembering why was of great importance. When she did remember what the move was about (the healing she wanted) the re-feeling of old places, she was fully exhilarated by her adventure.

After speaking with her psychic, because she was that kind of girl who did those kinds of things, he simply affirmed what she already thought and knew. He confirmed that she didn’t have to stay anywhere. The real issue wasn’t where she should be, rather the insurmountable task of knowing her life purpose…what was she here for?  She thought this question was way too daunting, though she knew it to be true.  She could only respond inside her private thoughts with a knowing that all would sort out.  He talked about the energy she spread which would lay the groundwork for all she did and would do. Again, she knew that was also true and she could feel helpless in relation to her energy, helpless in her ability to change her energy.  She was either happy, okay, or not happy and not okay, and in really good moments she was neither and that suited her beyond measure.

Coffee at Brothers K

The Rocky Road of Listening Within

I always thought that listening within would be simple if I would just do it. Now I know doing it is hard, really hard, but as a good friend once said, “What else is there to do?”

5/7/17

The journey of listening deeply which started back in January,  moved me away from family and friends in California, back to the Midwest, back to the North Shore of Chicago. My purpose was to heal and reclaim something I may have left behind. It certainly was to re-feel life that I once new on the North Shore and see how it fit with me now.

The journey of listening deeply takes me to the nooks and crannies that lurk around the corners of my thoughts, where pockets of solitude lie. Sometimes I can think that I am doing nothing and feeling everything and forget there are pockets of solitude.

Just before I turn to listen deeply, and turn towards the whispering voice, I can experience nausea that makes me want to change channels or go do something else.  I am sure that the whispers I am hearing cannot possibly be directing me onto the right path, and it definitely must be wrong because I feel so riddled with a disquiet. But over and over, when I listen and just allow the discomfort, the nausea of anxiety goes away and I am happier and comforted by the direction I have turned.

Listening deeply has been a nagging desire inside me for too many years.

 

Traveling in the Present

4/7/17

“The role of the traveler today- like the role of any artist who treads outside the bounds of mainstream cultural imagination- is to be a storyteller of new possibilities, and most importantly of all, a messenger of hope.” Simon Yugler -Travel Alchemy

Traveling has a very special alchemy.  It gives me the freedom of being outside my normal day to day and places me right in the present; a much more pleasant and freeing place to be than my past or future. It helps me really know what I don’t know and I am relieved of the pressure of pretending to know. Travel gives me hope about humanity and expands my world by leaps and bounds.

There is a spirit among fellow travelers that says, hey, we are on the same road, at least for a moment. We share some unspoken part of being human. It’s as if we know in our bones that our ancestors and the many ancestors before were nomads, or travelers with a yearning to know more, learn more, see more, typically in search of food.  As travelers, we are trying on a nomadic life, sharing our stories, enjoying company with strangers in the strange lands where everything is somehow familiar, everything is new and we are looking for food, gas and perhaps a connection.

Traveling gives me the opportunity to widen my vision, open my eyes, feel the air, smell the atmosphere and take the opportunity to slow things down enough to see that every moment can be sacred, a little, tiny journey in itself. I see things I like and things I don’t. I hear things that hurt my heart and other things that grow it. I find atmospheres that sooth my soul and others that make my soul curl into a tiny ball trying to protect itself.

Now that Henry and I have arrived in Evanston, the traveling becomes something else.  It becomes the contrast to “on the road” traveling.  It is discovery and finding the places the fit us.

Evanston is a city, like every city, where you are expected to know, know what lane to be in for the turn you are about to make, which streets are one way, or where to park to go to the grocery store, what the customs are around leash or no leash for Henry, even when the law says leash and all kinds of everyday things. The expectation of a city is that you know what you are doing at every moment.  “Knowing” is how not to get in the way of anyone’s rushing and the very important business of getting to the next place or meeting, or appointment.  When I get it all right, I avoid the glances at my license plate and then at me, that clearly state that I am a foreigner here. The angry, dirty stares that say, “Oh, right, you are from California, of course, you know nothing about being here. You idiot, learn the roads here!” They don’t know I grew up here, I own this place.  Grant it, I have to relearn landmarks and roads, but I belong, even if my license plate says I don’t. At least my license plate says I am pretty cool.

At the end of the day, we are two tired travelers. We’ve arrived. Henry lays with his tail curled under in an attempt to achieve the fetal position and stop moving just to go inward. I have never seen him curl up so tightly. His eyes are bloodshot and I imagine he feels as I do, a sensation that we are still hurtling through the air, on the road at 60-80 miles an hour.

 

Tired Henry
Four Dogs Tired

I have been trying to tell Mr. H no more endless car rides for a long time but he just doesn’t seem to be listening.  It is as if he is saying, I am too tired and I’ll believe it when I see it.